________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 16. . . . April 11, 2003

cover The Incredible Polly McDoodle. (The Polly McDoodle Mystery Series, No. 4).

Mary Woodbury.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2002.
128 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55050-215-8.

Subject Headings:
McDoodle, Polly (Fictitious character)-Juvenile fiction.
Detective and mystery stories.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Carole Marion.

*** /4

If Polly McDougall and Kyle Clay did not live in the same apartment building and had not known each other since kindergarten, they would have little in common.

Polly wandered away looking for the shovel to use as a dustpan and didn't answer. She was still thinking about the contests she'd just entered - one for a free trip for four to Disneyland, one for a trip to Italy for a family, one for anywhere in Canada, and one for a trip to Florida. She patted the pocket of her jeans where the envelopes nestled, waiting for stamps. "Say what you will, Clam. If you don't enter you won't win."

"Statistically your chances are terrible ..."

"What about you, Mr. Nerdyknees." Polly laughed at her own joke.

Kyle was wearing long shorts that covered his knees but she could still see how knobby they were. She couldn't help herself. "You entered the song contest for that new cereal, didn't you?"

"Yes, but I don't expect to win. You plan the whole trip. I've watched you grab tourist brochures from the travel agency at the mall for all the places you expect to explore. It's a wonder you don't pack a suitcase while you're at it." Polly thought of the stack of colourful booklets about Italy, Florida, and Disneyland that were stuffed in her overcrowded desk drawer. The Overexcited, Over-optimistic McDoodle reaced down, grabbed a handful of sawdust and tossed it on Kyle. "As my dad says - nothing ventured, nothing gained."

"As my dad says - nobody receives something for nothing. It all costs."



     It is their shared interest in mailing ballots that leads the sleuths to this fourth installment in the "Polly McDoodle Mystery Series." This time, she and Kyle are in grade seven, no longer the oldest in elementary school but rather the youngest in a fine arts junior/senior high. Their anxieties and insecurities come out loud and clear in this sequel. Polly is struggling with the loss of her brother Shawn - her only sibling - who is playing hockey in Regina for a year. Her best friend has moved away, and Isabel, her beloved mentor, is spending three months in an artists' commune in Mexico. Her friendship with Mandy, a classmate and new tenant in the apartment complex, is stretched to the limits when she realizes that Mandy's eating disorder is a symptom of her missionary parents' absence, and Polly is desperate to help her. These are all serious problems for a young girl, and Woodbury does not minimize them.

     In her upbringing and support system, Polly is well-grounded, and readers can learn some valuable lessons from this. Tempers might flare between Kyle and Polly, but any problems are resolved quickly and amiably. The students are taken seriously in their investigative work by the teachers, the police and the postal inspectors who try to track down the mail thefts. They are passionate about their art of choice; Polly uses her drawing skills not only to reconstruct scenes from the crime but also as a release from the tensions of her life. Adults are also there to listen and offer a mature perspective, as in the following:

"Too many changes in your life, Polly?"

Polly felt a lump forming in her throat. She gulped it down."You're going away. Shawn's in Regina. Erin Darby is in Winnipeg. I'm in a strange school. Kyle's hanging out with a bunch of music experts and computer addicts. The old tree fort is gone."

"Enough, already, oh Moaning McDoodle," Isabel chuckled. "Sounds like pretty good things are happening, kid."

Polly frowned and shook her head.

"New school, new opportunities," said Isabel. "Kyle has a chance to make friends with kids like him. You have your folks to yourself now that your brother is away. The new bike shed in the backyard is strong enough to support all you rambunctious teens up there on the roof."

Polly sprang from her perch and moved to the bedroom window. Isabel wasn't going to give her any sympathy. Polly stared out the window, grabbed her sketchbook, and started to draw.

     As witty as Polly's nickname "McDoodle" is initially, the numerous tags that Woodbury gives Polly to explain her moods can grow tedious after awhile: Perplexed and Puzzled McDoodle, Languid and Lonely McDoodle, Deserted and Despairing McDoodle, the Mentally Confused and Emotionally Complex McDoodle ....

     Despite all the side plots in this novel, this is still a mystery that young readers will enjoy solving along with Polly and Kyle. It is also heartening to read about kids who are passionate about something - their art, their neighbourhood, their environment and their friendships. And Polly cares enough to take risks and want to make a difference:

"Look, Mandy. I know I talk a lot. I blather on, I stick my nose in other people's business." Polly doodled a shaky circle on the cover of her math book, digging the pencil in hard. "It's because I care about stuff. I care about people. I want things to work out. I want life to be fair and it isn't. But most of all I want to help."

     Although the book's students are entering their adolescent years, like the rest of the series, this one will still appeal most to young readers. The cover artwork by Ward Schell and the trade paperback format will also help attract pre-teens.


Carole Marion is a Youth Librarian with Calgary Public Library and had been working with young readers and their caregivers for twenty years..


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364